For the last year, it feels as though there have been three of us in this relationship; I’ll confess, I’ve acquired another significant other. A certain someone isn’t too jealous though, they’ve been acquainted for years but to me it’s all shiny and new. Less tragic than the Diana, Charles and Camilla love triangle and definitely not as salacious as an affair which started life through a dodgy dating app, my other significant other is quite simply London.
I knew straight away we would get along. I relish in the occasional breath of fresh country air but I’m a big city girl at heart so gimme the bright lights, breathtaking skylines and unfortunate smog any day. Just as a certain someone figured out early on, London also knows the way to my heart is through my stomach. Over the last year I have been wined and dined for my affection and it’s been worth each and every calorie.
To mark our first year of living in this gloriously foodcentric city (I’ll celebrate anything for an excuse to go out- next up, the first anniversary of my UK bank account so stay tuned) I decided to treat a certain someone to dinner- my choice for the evening was Fera at Claridge’s. I thought the blend of Claridge’s old-world London luxury and Simon Rogan’s exciting and seasonal, modern British cuisine would be fit for the occasion. I’m happy to report that I was completely right. As soon as I stepped into the dining room at Fera I felt a little special but also very much at ease. The restaurant is lusciously furnished, softly lit and the service was attentive but not smothering. A dream situation.
As it was a Sunday dinner and the last meal of an already chockablock dining weekend, I was sensible for a change and decided to save the tasting menu for another visit, opting instead for the comfortable three course dinner menu. We toasted our first wonderful year in London with a glass of Laurent Perrier champagne and whet our appetites with the amuse bouche of blue cheese mousse on a rosemary crisp. I approached it rather hesitantly because it was almost too pretty to eat and I’m really not a fan of blue cheese, but it was so light and far from overpowering. Delightful.
We started with Jerusalem artichokes in goat’s butter, hazelnut, soft herbs, chicken skin and Duart salmon with pickled celeriac, watercress and horseradish creme fraiche. Artichokes are not something we eat often, in fact I’ve never even cooked them before… a bit put off after Laura on Australian Masterchef managed to overcook hers to a putrid green and the girl cooks them all the time. Of course there were no such issues from the Fera team- the artichokes still had a bit of bite, the butter gave the dish a rich creaminess while the chicken skin provided an ideal crunch and saltiness. After this, I definitely won’t be overlooking artichokes on a menu again.
Moving along to the salmon- this for me was a perfect dish of quality ingredients and meticulous execution. Precisely cubed pieces of translucent salmon sitting on a bed of pickled celeriac with a dash of horseradish- a flavour combination I adore. I had to consciously stop myself from scooping it all up in a couple of mouthfuls.
At this point our waiter arrived with two warm wedges of stout bread with caramelised butter. I truly believe the quality of the house bread reflects the quality of the restaurant… these wedges were gone quicker than you could say ‘pass the butter’.
For the main event a certain someone devoured the Lake District pork belly and jowl, parsnips, roasted cauliflower puree, buckwheat, juniper while I stuck with the seafood theme and had the roasted cod, kale leaves in lobster cream, salt baked kohlrabi, mustard and dill. To say the pork belly was tender is unfairly simplistic but it was, to call it melt in the mouth would be clichéd but true. However, it would have really knocked our well dressed socks off if there was a bit of crispy skin. Controversial? I dare you to find me a sane person who isn’t partial to a bit of crackling. Though we’ll let it slide this time given how wonderful the jowl was.
My cod was so succulent, just flaking away nicely, and luxuriously paired with the delicate lobster cream. Kohlrabi is another vegetable that hasn’t frequented our shopping trolley but might now make an appearance- part of the cabbage family, it gave the dish a nice bit of freshness (though I thought it did dangerously tread the fine line towards unpleasant rawness) to contrast with the lobster cream and kale.
And finally for the sweets; chocolate cream, tarragon, shortbread and rapeseed jam, and Bramley apple cake, cinnamon ice cream and pecan. These dishes may sound simple but the flavours are daring. I’m partial to a chocolate dessert so I had no issues with the richness of the chocolate cream, a shortbread crumble is always a winner and a fruity element is ideal too but what really left me ambivalent was the tarragon ice cream. Chocolate lover I am, licorice lover I am not- that aniseed flavour is not one I have ever liked… in this case I could understand the combination but on its own the ice cream was not for me.
The apple cake was also a little surprising- the texture was more robust than what you might expect from a cake but the real punch came from that cinnamon ice cream. Tasting the ice cream on its own was like having whole cinnamon sticks explode in your mouth, but balanced with the cake, it worked. A certain someone told me it felt like he was eating a posh hot cross bun- perhaps appropriate given we are full steam ahead to Easter?
We washed all this down with a very reasonably priced French white, and finished with some rather interesting petit fours that gave the tastebuds a final burst of flavour. Dinner at Fera is an experience- the atmosphere is impeccably elegant yet still very approachable and comfortable, and the food? It’s interesting; some classic combinations, some more bold but what is consistent is the precision execution. That Michelin star wasn’t awarded for nothing and now I’m even more disappointed I didn’t get to L’Enclume during our Lake District break… oh well, something to look forward to on another visit.
So cheers to you London, love you long time!